(Last Updated On: March 23, 2021)

In part of 1 this series, we touched on the indicators of digital marketing transformation specific to paid digital advertising campaigns.

In this article, we will talk about the other indicators (organic aspects) of digital marketing transformation.

We all know the importance of Search Engine Optimization.

Many of us invest heavily in SEO to drive organic traffic. After all, who doesn’t want free traffic, especially with the right intent?

If you take a look at it, it’s highly likely that SEO is one with more discrete interventions amongst all digital marketing functions.

We do over a 100 different things ranging from keyword mapping to technical SEO to back-linking to increasing domain authority, to get our SEO right.

It is apparent that SEO is the largest function that drives free traffic. But, is SEO the only way?

Definitely not!

If you think otherwise and focus only on SEO for organic traffic generation, then this article is specifically for you.

If you think SEO is about traffic generation for new customer acquisition and your job in SEO is over once you deliver the said traffic, then this is relevant for you too.

Let’s get started.

#1 You don’t focus on getting press coverage

Press coverage is often an underutilized technique with the capability to drive humongous amounts of traffic with very little effort.

Often PR doesn’t fall under the scope of marketing, but under Corporate Communications.

Also, PR has changed over the years. Earlier, if you are covered by a newspaper, its readers are all aware of your brand.

Depending on the how well you were covered, recall happens.

These days, with everything being digital, the benefits of PR coverage are greater and can be felt instantly.

When you are covered by the press for the right reasons, digital PR gets your brand in front of thousands of people without you having to do anything specific.

Those readers can reach you with just a click, as the article will carry a link to your portal.

When this happens - people coming to your website on their own and being converted into customers – this is the acquisition of customers at ZERO cost.

However, you can’t wait for good things to happen all on their own.

Instead, you need to create opportunities to be covered by the press.

That is not hard at all.

You can do it on your own or partner with a PR agency.

An easy yet efficient way is to do some research among your existing customers and publish a study.

People, both journalists and readers, are hungry for data.

Imagine you are a bank and you do a study on how customer preferences have changed during Covid times and how long that would last.

Even if you ran this study among a few thousand customers, that’s still a credible and representative sample.

Journalists love such data and they will automatically feature your brand in their news articles which would then drive crazy traffic to your website.

PR is a simple, yet highly underutilized technique. If you haven’t been focusing on it, its time you did!

Actionable Recommendations

If you are convinced that PR can help drive traffic to your brand and want to try your hand at it, here is something to get you started.

  1. Start building relationships with journalists that cover articles, specifically about your industry and understand what it takes to be covered and do the needful.
  2. Sign up with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Look for requests for assistance by reporters on articles related to your industry and extend support.
  3. If you don’t think you have the time, hire a PR firm that can do this and a whole lot more to get you PR.
  4. Finally, if you want to get PR without you reaching out, publish study reports.

#2 You are underutilizing social media for organic marketing

Yes, you read it right. The emphasis here is using social media in the right manner.

Social media has been a key ingredient in marketers’ armoury for a while.

While social media is largely about engaging with your audience, the reality is that it’s not just a channel for engagement.

You can drive traffic from these channels to your portal too, without media money.

Social

Source: Sprout Social

Take for instance, you are running an ecommerce company and you are active on social media.

It’s very certain your posts will drive audience with prior interests to your portal.

However, if you want to take this advantage of this to the fullest, you should use social media to not just attract the traffic of interested audiences, but also those who are sitting on the fence.

So if you have an article in your blog that talks about how to choose the right laptop for your business that you are promoting in the social channel.

The specific post will not directly make your audience to go to a specific product section and add to cart.

Instead, what this will do is, it will attract audiences to your blog, help them make the right purchase decision and then make them come to the product page and add the product to the cart.

Regardless of industry, this is a great opportunity for marketers to drive traffic to your portal, again without spending a penny on media.

If you are not using your social presence to drive traffic to your portal, you should seriously consider changing that.

Actionable Recommendations

Among all the points discussed in the entire article, this must be an easy one to implement. Here’s what you need to do if you want to start using social media to drive traffic to your portal.

  1. Find and list down some content across the customer lifecycle that would be useful to your audience
  2. Find how the content can be developed i.e.) whether the content can be developed as an article, infographic, video etc.
  3. Plan to distribute this in your existing content calendar. Schedule frequency based on the amount of content you have.
  4. Distribute as per content calendar
  5. Remember to track the traffic coming from your social pages through these posts and also see how much of them contribute to conversion
  6. Based on the analysis, optimize your communication (social post text) as well as the content on landing pages to maximize traffic and conversion

#3 You haven’t tried unbranded properties

You have heard of influencer marketing. You might be doing that in varying degrees.

Apart from celebrities, you may have seen that a lot of men and women like you and me just do product reviews and have become influencers.

What do they bring to the table as far your customers are concerned?

The answer is knowledge and opinion.

They literally rip through yours and your competitors’ products and services and give their opinion to their followers.

When you go through those reviews, you may wish you want to differ from certain views and instead present it better.

But you cannot name and talk about your competitors / competing products directly and explain how yours are better than theirs.

That’s where unbranded digital properties come into the picture.

Unbranded digital properties are not something new.

It’s been there for years, but largely underutilized. Very few brands have successfully leveraged Unbranded Vertical Content.

So, what’s an unbranded digital property and how it is useful for your business?

“An unbranded digital property is a discussion / review / opinion portal that is established by a brand but at an arm’s length. Using the property, the brand can

  • drive traffic to the portal
  • demonstrate product superiority over competing offerings and
  • nudge users towards purchase

Is there anyone who has tasted success with unbranded properties?

The answer is there are many. Let’s look at a couple of those.

  1. When Merck came up with a new drug Belsomra, it gave new hope to people who suffer from insomnia. They also created an unbranded property called whysoawake.com, a portal exclusively devoted to Insomnia where they seeded links to go to the drug page in Merck website. This strategy delivered a lot of traffic to Merck’s website – people who wanted to learn more about the drug. While some may argue about the appearance of Merck’s logo in the bottom left corner, a blind spot for visitors, this is a great case study for Unbranded Digital Properties.
  2. Like Merck, Johnson & Johnson also created an unbranded digital property called BabyCentre aimed at expectant mothers and young parents, that are always looking for information related to pre-natal, post-natal and baby care and want to connect with similar others, facing issues related to these”. Unsurprisingly, this was a huge hit and Johnson & Johnson was able to successfully build a vast digital community of young parents and expectant mothers

It’s very clear that unbranded digital properties are a heavily underutilized, yet powerful digital marketing technique.

It’s very likely you don’t have this piece in your marketing strategy and it’s worth trying.

In fact, this is something that is applicable for brands across all industries all the way from financial services to automobiles to manufacturing.

Try this technique and tell us about your learnings in the comments.

PS: We are building an unbranded property for our business albeit on stealth mode

Actionable Recommendations

Among all the recommendations, this is the complex one to get started on. Nevertheless, this what you can do to get started on setting up an unbranded digital property.

  1. Find and document how your offerings are better than your competitors
  2. Arrive at a key theme that is representative of your offerings
  3. Find and buy a domain that is closely related to the theme
  4. To begin with, build content around the theme from a neutral perspective and slowly build community engagement
  5. Once you get a decent amount of portal visitors, gradually start linking to various sections of your marketing portal
  6. Occasionally provide mentions and links to competing products and services to demonstrate neutrality

#4 You ignore content marketing

Some of you must be wondering why this is even listed here as anyone doing SEO must be doing this by default.

Let’s be very clear. SEO and content marketing are two different, yet complementing functions.

Writing off portal content and seeding them on third party properties to generate backlinks cannot be counted as content marketing.

Content marketing in itself is a much larger function.

Seo vs Content Marketing

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Content Marketing Institute

The first and foremost principle of content marketing is that you should generate content for users that would incidentally be liked by search engines.

The more your content is relevant to your audience, they themselves will share it with their network and make it go viral. .

So, what kind of content must you create as a part of your content marketing?

Here are some content types that you can get started with.

Types of content

What are the channels that you can use to distribute your content? Here are some channels.

Channels

Remember, the goal of your content marketing should be about engaging with your audience and not about selling.

When they start finding value in your content, they will start to value your brand and become your loyal customers, subject to your products fulfilling their promise.

If you do not regularly create all the types of content mentioned above and instead create one-off blog posts, it’s safe to assume that you are not doing any content marketing.

And it’s high time you did!

Here’s why content marketing is important in 2021.

Content Marketing

Source: Modern Marketing Partners

We aren’t recommending content marketing just because other marketers are making it a priority.

The benefits of content marketing are truly overwhelming.

CM Benefits

Source: Content Marketing Institute & Marketing Profs

Actionable Recommendations

Content marketing is definitely a vital cog in a marketer’s armoury especially in today’s day and age. If you are already not doing it, here’s what you need to do to get started.

  1. Create a content strategy by answering questions like - who will be reading your content i.e.) Casual browsers / serious prospects / buyers/ existing customers etc.
  2. Find the needs and wants of your audience that you would be addressing through your content
  3. Create branding guidelines including tone, imagery etc.
  4. Find formats of content that you would develop and create a content plan
  5. Find channels where you would distribute the content.
  6. Start developing content and build a content calendar
  7. Publish content based on content calendar
  8. Use analytics to measure how well your audience engages with your content and keep improving the content on an ongoing basis

PS: Include both topical and timeless content in your plan to ensure you are current, and you keep your legacy intact.

#5 You don’t care what happens after you drive traffic to your website

You may be doing everything right as far as SEO is concerned.

Your website is technically SEO compliant.

You create topical and timeless content for good back-linking and your domain authority is impressive.

And you get a decent amount of organic traffic.

But do you think your job is done?

Driving traffic to your website is only the beginning.

Although the SEO team doesn’t have any role to play technically beyond this point, as a marketer this is where your serious role begins.

You need to understand the following:

  1. How well the audience engages with your content on your website.
  2. How well the organic traffic audience converts

As long as they are engaged and converting well, you don’t have a problem.

The real challenge comes when they don’t.

Don’t you think something is seriously wrong with the following report?

Report

You need to find the root cause for this and see where you are going wrong.

Possible reasons include,

  1. You target the wrong keywords
  2. Your users land on content that is not aligned with their search intent
  3. Your website’s UX is bad
  4. You are not able to carry the intent intelligence through the session

You need to get your portal’s analysts and UX consultants to find out where you are going wrong and then rectify it.

To first understand whether there are challenges with your organic traffic, you need to get your analysts to deliver metrics filtered by source i.e.) organic traffic.

This will be a good starting point to fix any post traffic generation challenges.

If you are unaware of such possibilities or you don’t do anything about highlighted issues, then it just means that your current SEO efforts need transformation.

Actionable Recommendations

  1. Get your analytics team to report on metrics specific to the search traffic
  2. Compare how this traffic compares with traffic from other sources
  3. If traffic from your search efforts are don’t engage as keenly as direct traffic or from any other source, re-evaluate if the landing pages’ content aligns with the keywords that drive traffic.
  4. See if the keywords for which your pages were listed are actually valid. For instance, if your credit card page gets traffic for the keyword “fastest credit card approval” and your approval process actually takes more time, you probably should focus on other relevant keywords and not this.
  5. Wherever you find variance, correct those immediately.

#6. You assume SEO is only for new customer acquisition

Ask any marketer what the objective of their SEO efforts is (apart from driving top of funnel traffic) and you might get responses like -

  • Brand Awareness
  • Brand Recall
  • Brand Salience
  • Acquisition

What this communicates to us is that SEO efforts are done to facilitate acquisition.

And you end up creating content that is only acquisition-focused.

We have always recommended that our clients create content for humans and not search engines.

When you create content for search engines your focus is only on keywords and other parameters related to SEO such as internal and external linking, etc.

Your goal must not be for your article to be picked up by search engines for your desired keywords, have them served to your audience, get them to come to your portal and eventually getting them to convert.

Whereas, if you create content for humans, you start thinking from their shoes.

This is where the acquisition focus gets broken.

When you write content for your users, you start thinking of ‘know, go, buy and do‘-interactions and then create content for each need.

The ‘do’ interactions are very relevant to existing customers. Some examples include how to fix something that is broken, where to get the warranty copy etc.

Such kinds of content have tremendous opportunities to fulfil user intents as much as 100%.

We aren’t recommending you expand your SEO focus beyond acquisition. Here’s why.

Channel cannibalization / low cost channel adoption has long been any marketers’ Achilles Heel.

And SEO could well be the perfect solution for this.

If you are able to create content that will help your customers make DIY actions, rather than reaching out to a high-cost channel such as branch / call-centre, SEO can help the content reach masses and imagine the savings in cost this can bring.

If your SEO efforts are purely acquisition-based, its high time for you to expand it and transform the way you do SEO.

Actionable Recommendations

If you want to extend your SEO efforts beyond acquisition, but unsure of how to get started, you should follow these recommendations.

  1. Analyze your website search words and list down what your audience is looking for from your brand
  2. Analyze your call center data and find the top queries of your existing customers
  3. Develop content to address these needs
  4. Map keywords to this content and start making efforts to drive traffic

Summary

Remember none of these indicators and recommendations are alternatives to your SEO efforts, but must co-exist with them. When you do these right, you can certainly take your organic marketing to the next level and drive not some random traffic, but traffic with intent to engage with your portal.

When you do this and the recommendations made in the part 1 of the article, you would significantly be able to lift the performance of your overall digital marketing efforts.